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US allies mobilize on two fronts against IS, but Sunnis wary

US-backed Iraqi forces have encircled Fallujah, and mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces have advanced on villages north of Raqqa, but Sunni residents are terrified of retribution by Kurdish and Shiite local forces preparing to liberate those cities from the Islamic State.
Shi'ite fighters and Iraqi security forces advance towards Falluja, Iraq, May 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani - RTSFX33
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WASHINGTON — As US-backed Iraqi security forces and allied militias have encircled the Islamic State (IS)-held city of Fallujah, Iraq, and mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have advanced into villages north of the IS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, Sunni residents of both cities have expressed fear at the prospect of violent retribution by the mostly Shiite and Kurdish forces moving toward them.

Officials with the US-led coalition have cheered progress made to seize territory from IS in recent days, dropping leaflets over the weekend into Raqqa telling civilians it’s time to leave the city and taunting IS over a May 21 audiotape by its spokesman acknowledging setbacks. Accompanied by a small group of reporters, Gen. Joseph Votel, who leads US Central Command (Centcom), even secretly crossed into northern Syria on May 21 to meet with the SDF as the fighters prepared to move toward the IS stronghold of Raqqa.

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